officers must be able to identify the perimeter of a crime scene, and determine what it is and where it will be. Read the article in Law Enforcement Digest (pp. 28 - 31) https://www.fbi.gov/?came_from=https%3A//www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/1999-pdfs/mar99leb.pdf/at_download/file) that outlines the first responder's duties at the scene of a bomb threat. Imagine that you have been dispatched to the scene of a suspected bomb found inside a restaurant, which is positioned in the center of a busy shopping mall. Drawing on the procedures discussed in this lesson, discuss with the following five actions you should take to protect the public. Describe in detail why an officer would take these actions:
- Hands off the Package
- Clear the Area
- Alert Emergency Personnel
- Turn off the Radios
- Investigate the Scene
Protecting the Crime Scene
The initial information from the preliminary investigation, regardless of who collects it,
provides the foundation for the eventual criminal case against a suspect (Berg &
Horgan, 1998). Remember that the initial crime scene is the focus of the preliminary
investigation. Because so much depends on the actions taken by officers at the initial
investigation, the scene absolutely MUST be carefully guarded and controlled. This is
a major responsibility of the first responding officer. Certain principles are valid for
the first responder to any major crime scene:
1. ALWAYS protect the crime scene from contamination!
2. DO NOT allow bystanders and "gawkers" into the crime scene
area: Authorized individuals (investigators, paramedics, supervisors, etc.) who
do enter the scene should log in and out of the scene on a crime scene log.
This includes ranking supervisors of police and fire departments and any other
agencies that respond to the scene. This log is to be maintained by the first
responding officer or his/her designee. Remember also that this log is a public
document, and is therefore discoverable in court. Keep it clean and
professionally documented. Access control is particularly important for a
number of critical reasons. o Access control must be maintained to prevent the contamination and/or
destruction of critical evidence: Persons other than the investigating
officer(s) must not be allowed to enter the scene of a crime, as their
presence may disturb or disrupt the physical evidence at the scene.
Consider the scene of an aggravated assault involving a hatchet. The
responding officer did not control the access of several neighbors who
tracked blood all over the scene. This ruined investigators' ability to
develop any suspect footprints.
o Investigators do not want bystanders bringing in or taking out physical
evidence: Individuals who are allowed to "tour" the crime scene can
bring in foreign objects (soda cans, tobacco products, etc.) and leave
them there. This "contamination" can confuse investigators who must determine which objects are evidence and which are not. Remember
also that uncontrolled individuals may actually be looters. Visualize the
scene of a domestic violence homicide in which a handgun is used as a
weapon. In this case, the first responding officer allowed family
members into the scene. The handgun somehow "disappeared." It was
probably taken by a family member who wished to protect the suspect.
o Prevent interference with the preliminary investigation: This is critical ?
mostly from a safety standpoint. Consider the scene of a gang related
drive-by shooting, where a 16-year-old boy is shot to death. In this
case, the family members were not restrained and were allowed into the
scene. With emotions running high, the family members trampled over
critical evidence and assaulted investigating officers.
o Protect the victim's right to privacy and his/her personal property: No
one welcomes uninvited persons into their home, and no one wishes to
have their personal property damaged or stolen.
3. DO NOT move or touch anything in the crime scene area unless it is a matter
of life or death: A life or death situation is usually determined by medical
personnel. If an object of potential evidentiary value must be moved from its
original position, be certain to document the original position for replacement
of the object later. For the same reason, NEVER interfere with or forbid
medical personnel from treating or moving a victim, simply for the sake of
preserving evidence. Remember your "prime directive" is to protect life.
4. Wait for the crime scene investigators to arrive and continue to guard the
scene: It may take a considerable amount of time for the appropriate
investigator(s) to arrive on the scene ? particularly if multiple agencies and
departments are involved. The first responding officer(s) is responsible for
remaining on the scene and maintaining its integrity.
Establishing Crime Scene Priorities
Although a rapid response to a major crime scene is essential for all officers, quick
thinking and sound judgment are equally important. Remember, in the heat of a
protracted and potentially violent situation, you have the responsibility to maintain
control. This involves establishing crime scene priorities. Consider the following Crime Scene Investigation Checklist (Berg & Horgan, 1998) which can be used as a
tool by first responding officers.
1. Identify and treat the victim or obtain proper medical care as needed.
2. Interview the victim if he or she is able to speak.
3. Obtain a description of the suspect(s).
4. Broadcast a general description of the event and the suspect(s) description.
1. Determine what type of evidence is present. Are there any specific needs,
such as special technical assistance, photography, care in preservation and
securing of items, or casting?
2. What elements of real or direct evidence (Legal Aspects of Law Enforcement,
Lesson 5, Rules of Evidence) have been found? List and detail each item.
3. What elements of circumstantial evidence (Legal Aspects of Law Enforcement,
Lesson 5, Rules of Evidence) are present or identified from interviews?
1. Obtain and confirm the identity of each witness.
2. Separate all witnesses.
3. Conduct a separate interview with each witness.
4. Determine relationships of witnesses with the victim, the suspect, and other
5. Determine where the witnesses were positioned during the incident and what
they were doing.
6. Obtain a description of the suspect from each of them. Method of Operation (M.O.)
1. Determine how the crime was committed.
2. Determine the time that the crime occurred.
3. Determine where the crime occurred.
4. Determine if any weapons were used. What kind of weapons? Where are they
5. Determine who was involved in the incident. Document all parties involved.
6. Were there any injuries? If so, indicate the nature and severity of the injuries.
Remember to summon a supervisor to all life-threatening situations.
7. How did the suspect arrive at and leave the scene?
8. When possible, check for similar types of crimes that have occurred recently in
1. Was any property taken? If so, what kind of property?
2. Was any property damaged? If so, what was it, and to what extent was it
3. What is the value of the property that was taken or damaged?
4. Are there any identifying marks on any of the property items taken?
5. Were any weapons taken?
Procedures for Securing and Protecting a Crime Scene
Once control of the crime scene has been reasonably achieved, the first responding
officer must complete a number of important tasks:
1. Identify the perimeter of the crime scene and determine where it will
be: Remember that crime scenes are not necessarily contained in the perimeter of a residential home. Crime scenes can extend for city blocks even miles! Think of a scene involving a drive-by shooting with numerous
victims spread over several city blocks. All of this must be controlled.
2. Close off the immediate area: If the perimeter is small enough, officers can
secure the area by using crime scene tape. The tape itself can be secured with
trees, shrubs, police vehicles, traffic cones, or any uninvolved objects that are
readily available. If the area is large, officers can be positioned at critical
locations such as street intersections to prevent the unauthorized access of
vehicles and individuals. This is a good time to start a crime scene log and
document the names of officers who have been assigned to perimeter
positions - particularly if the scene is a large one.
3. Prevent unnecessary movement of articles within the crime scene: It is
critically important to remember that physical evidence must not be
unnecessarily touched or moved. If items of evidentiary value must be moved,
be certain to document their original location - even outline them with chalk, as
with spent shotgun casings lying next to a victim, etc. Also, officers should not
use any article or item contained within the crime scene. This includes sinks,
telephones, toilets, towels, etc. These items may have been used by the
4. Always keep the witnesses separated from each other until either you or an
investigator has had a chance to interview them: It is a natural tendency for
people to gather at the scene of an unusual event and discuss the
happenings. Witnesses must be prevented from doing this, or their recollection
of the event may be compromised. Remember to obtain personal identification
from each witness and assign an officer to stand by them if at all possible.
Have the witnesses begin completing witness statements in their own
5. Attempt to protect evidence against "the elements": Many crime scenes are
out of doors. If critical evidence is scattered outside on the ground and rain,
snow, or wind threatens, objects such as traffic cones, cardboard boxes,
blankets, and the like can be used to cover the evidence to protect it from
being disturbed or damaged.
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